The 2021 legislative session began on February 10, 2021. Although it is still very early in the 60-day session, we want to provide an update on some proposed changes to the criminal laws of the State of West Virginia. Please note that these proposals have not been passed and, accordingly, are not currently the law of West Virginia.
- Senate Bill 8 – Relating to the Castle Doctrine and Self-Defense Standards. This bill would create a specific and affirmative defense to any criminal action against a person who uses reasonable and proportionate force, including deadly force, against an intruder or attacker to prevent a forcible entry into the home or residence or to terminate the intruder or attacker’s unlawful entry.
- Senate Bill 26 – Limiting Penalty for Possession of Marijuana. If passed, this bill would limit the penalty for the misdemeanor offense of simple possession of marijuana, W. Va. Code § 60A-4-401(c), to a fine of not more than $1,000. The current penalty is 90 days to six months.
- House Bill 2017 – Rewriting the Criminal Code. This proposed legislation would revise nearly all criminal statutes in this State.
- House Bill 2060 – Reducing Penalty for Possession of Marijuana. This bill seeks to reduce the penalty for the misdemeanor offense of simple possession of marijuana (less than 15 grams) to a fine not to exceed $500, or confinement not to exceed 72 hours.
- House Bill 2310 – Establishing Death Penalty for First Degree Murder. Almost every year, a bill is introduced to establish the death penalty in West Virginia. It has never gained any serious consideration the legislature, however.
- House Bill 2360 – Increase Penalty for Killing Police/Correctional Officer in Line of Duty. Known as the “Cassie Johnson Act,” this bill would classify the murder of a peace (police) officer or a correctional officer while engaged in the performance of their duty as first-degree murder. The penalty for this offense would be life without eligibility for parole.